Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- modern illiteracy August 2, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Each day she enters the library

trailing behind her friends to sign out a book-

one they suggest or something near that’s fat

and impressive.

“I could never read a book that thick!”

“I heard that author is great!”

She settles into her seat, and

during silent reading

she opens to the middle and  flips pages

occasionally looking at the cryptic shapes

arranged on the page to find words she knows,

but mostly her eyes are elsewhere as she turns

the page, stealthily,

wondering what others see when they read

wondering if they are pretending,

wondering if anyone notices.

At the end of each class,

its mysteries too deep to decipher

she drops the book into the library bin.

“Are you done already?”

“Yes. It was really good.”

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32 Responses to “poem- modern illiteracy”

  1. J. Frye Says:

    Unfortunately I see this far too often 😦

    • This was the only time I saw it like this, and it was several years ago. So many strategies to hide from friends! (The student did attend a special class that worked to improve reading skill, but I don’t think friends knew that “The cat saw a rat” was the student’s real level).

      • J. Frye Says:

        At least she was attempting to improve 🙂 I work with juvenile delinquents and while the vast majority are able to read well there are naturally a few that struggle with basics. Thankfully never have any youth made ones who have a difficult time with reading feel bad, they are all incredibly supportive and encouraging. A refreshing aspect to a less than ideal situation. 🙂

      • Yes. The Learning ASsistance room is generally very supportive, particularly in high school. It’s the pull out system in elementary that draws attention and labels.

  2. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd Says:

    Great poem. It captures a sister of mine who hid her inability to read until her oldest child went to school. She sat in class with all the six year olds. The children thought she was a teacher aide, but she went there to learn to read. Now she won’t take her face out of books. Thanks again for the spot-on and lovely piece.

  3. davidprosser Says:

    So sad that this still exists and hasn’t been caught and dealt with at school. How sad that very often a person’s shame won’t let them sign up for adult literacy classes. Reading really does open up a whole new world. xxx Hugs xxx

    • It was dealt with. She had a class where she worked on her own reading with an assistant, but she was severely intellectually disabled. Though she looked completely normal, her capabilities were no more than kindergarten level. I observed this when she was in her integrated classes in a school wide silent reading time.

  4. This makes me sad, though it’s a beautiful poem. Reading is a treasure everyone should have access to. Thanks for this touching reminder of how lucky I am and this invitation to see if there is anything I can do to support others to be able to read…

  5. Paul Christiansen Says:

    Ooh. Sad. Nicely done.

  6. pi314chron Says:

    Shawn, your exquisite poem brought back memories not thought of for 49 years. In 1964, as a brand new beginning English teacher, I had a student who was severely mentally challenged. The school was a very poor, struggling rural middle school in Texas — ill-equipped to provide for special needs students. They were just mixed in with all the other students and left to their own devices and were passed along every year to the next grade until state law allowed them to drop out. This student — we’ll call him Grady — would sit at the back of the room and basically try to become invisible. On oral spelling tests Grady would pretend to write down the word called…all 20 of them, but when the papers were collected, his were always the same no matter what words were called out. From number to number twenty, he would scrawl some variation of the word “school” — schule, sckool, skule, shoole…and on and on, sometimes repeating a previous spelling. This isn’t the place for all the heart-rending stories I could relate about Grady, but I just wanted to let you know how profoundly your poem affected me as I began to wonder….whatever happened to that sad and broken child?

  7. words4jp Says:

    this is a lovely poem – sad but respectfully written. I am certain that many people who do not know how to read are ashamed – if they were to have this read to them, they may feel less so…

  8. That “reader” of the poem needs to return to kindergarten books and re-capture what was lost.

    • Yes. Each Learning Assistance block is exactly like that.

      • Thanks, Shawn. I find that there are three barriers to study: the Mis-understood word; too steep of a gradient — too much too fast; and lack of mass — all significance without either the real thing present to touch or observe, or a photo or model of it.

      • Or there is severe intellectual disability leading to an inability to process compounded by an inability to retain any information. It goes far beyond being out of a student’s Zone of Proximal Development in such a case. It’s like demanding that a person without eyes see something. They may try to fake it, but that doesn’t mean they are really doing it.

      • I believe things in life are inherently simple, when looked at for what is actually there. DaVinci wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

      • Ah. Sophisticated simplicity: The philosophy behind the best design.

  9. So sad, thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. lettergirl Says:

    This makes me ready to get back to school. May we see them all and notice. Lovely.

  11. lettergirl Says:

    Reblogged this on Not Going Postal and commented:
    I love this poem by Shawn L. Bird, even though it makes me sad, it also makes me anxious to get back to my students and pick up the fight again.

  12. quarksire Says:

    as a mony group said many years ago.. hw can one be in 2 places at once when one is no where at all 🙂 lol … kewl one .. again ! Q

  13. katriter Says:

    Well written as always. I can remember sharing books in the classroom in elementary school and pretending to read as fast as my partner. I am glad I was only a slow reader and loved spelling. It saddens me that sonny children slip through the cracks. Reading can truly define a person. Great job.


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